INS contract bails out jail

Agreement expected to pull facility out of almost $250,000 deficit

After two years of revenues falling significantly below projections for the Public Safety Center, local officials think they might have found a solution to the shortfall.

A month and a half into a new contract with Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the jail has housed a total of about 200 additional inmates.

Federal authorities pay the jail $57 a day per inmate.

County officials hope the additional revenue at the safety center helps them meet revenue projections set when the safety center was built three years ago.

The anticipated revenue at the jail for 2001 was $253,500. The actual revenue was $227,221 -- a $26,279 deficit.

In 2002 it got worse.

Projected revenues were $507,000, while the actual revenues were $179,000, which was $328,000 short.

The deficit was expected to be $245,976 in 2003, but that was before the new contract with INS was signed at the beginning of March.

"We got the INS contract, which should pull us out of this," said Deb Murray, director of administrative services for the county. "If we wouldn't have gotten that it would have been pretty bad."

Moffat County Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg explained the discrepancy in the projected revenues to the actual revenues.

"When the decision was made to build the facility, the sheriff at the time was asked to project future revenues," Hoberg said. "He gave projections based on if the jail was full all the time. Putting revenue figures at 100 percent capacity was not very realistic."

The jail's capacity is 88 inmates. Since the jail opened, it has averaged 40 inmates, Hoberg said.

Despite missing its projections, Murray said the jail has been able to meet its debt service through sales and property tax revenues, and has not had to use any general fund dollars.

"It's been pretty tight," she said. "But now that we have the INS contract we should be alright."

Had the contract not gone through with INS, Murray said the county probably would have had to begin looking elsewhere for funds to pay off the new facility.

"It probably would have come from the general fund," Murray said.

Hoberg said he will not have any definite figures on what kind of an increase the jail has seen in revenue for another three or four months.

But the department anticipates up to a $100,000 annual increase.

"We are hoping with the higher revenues we can go back to the commissioners and tell them we would like to hire some more people at the jail," Hoberg said.

He said the insurance company has advised the jail to hire four more people.

The inmates the jail is housing through the INS contract are from all over Colorado's Western Slope, Hoberg said.

The prisoners are from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement, U.S. Marshal's Service and U.S. Bureau of Federal Prisons, and are held at the Public Safety Center for up to 72 hours while they await transport elsewhere.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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